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  1. Wife: “So how are we celebrating our anniversary?” Me: “No idea, it’s in the middle of the week, and I can’t take leave..lets see” Wife: “Hmm, neither can I manage; but we both have holidays in sankranti right? Shall we celebrate a week before?” Me: Sounds great! But will not celebrate in a restaurant or bar, will do something kickass!! How about a road trip..?? Wife: Whaa.. that’s cool.. am in!! Teaser It was hardly a week into the New Year 2016 while we were having this conversation. Now the important part was where to go? Both of us were agreed that will go to a hill station for sure. Ooty, Kodai were there in our bucket list, but we chose Panchgani-Mahabaleswar instead as it’s nearer. Day before the trip started, went to Hyundai ASS for check-up. Coolant- Topped up Break oil- Ok Windshield water tank – Topped up. Tyre pressure – Refilled Engine oil – ok Break pad – checked. DAY 1: Triiiiinngg.. triiiiing.. Alarm snoozed for 15 minutes till 4 o’clock, woke up, had some warm tea & started 5 o’clock at sharp. Route taken: HYDERABAD-->ZAHEERABAD-->HUMNABAD-->OMERGA-->SOLAPUR-->PANDHARPUR-->SATARA-->MAHABALESWAR It was pitch dark when we started; visibility was not that great, thanks to high beams of oncoming traffic, on the top of that road widening work made the situation so worse that I mistakenly landed up in the wrong direction once!Around 7 in the morning we reached Zaheerabad to have some quick breakfast, by the time Sun already came up!The road condition got deteriorated & we started running behind & chasing our schedule time. “Men in work” & “diversion” signboard became our regular sight. Around 8:30-8:45 AM we crossed Telangana border to enter into Humnabad, Karnataka. 4 lane work in progress:No 4 lanes & bad condition of the road continued till Solhapur, Maharashtra. Near Solhapur it was time to take right turn to continue with NH65.The area was bit congested, so we took 2 minutes halt to understand the road properly & then cautiously proceed towards our destination;Tip: take the right turn cautiously in case you are travelling to this strech. Now we were at Solhapur – Pune highway which has 4-6 lanes!! Finally..!! Newly laid road was superb from this place. I could not resist myself to speed up. Sorry we could not take the pics of the road as we were just enjoying the ride for which we were eagerly waiting!! As the same road connects directly to Pune, we left behind this awesome road near Mohol to avoid truck traffic. Now we landed into Pandharpur-Solhapur road,it was perfect time for a chai break. We again started our journey via Pandharpur-Solhapur Road. It’s a traffic free road though full of potholes. I must say, Grand i10 was doing a fantastic job here by filtering all the small-mid size potholes; soft suspension set-up of it made our ride quite comfortable. We headed towards pre planned lunch point - Hotel Radhesh Garden, near Pandharpur. Due to the road condition, we had to take another pit-stop before we had our lunch. The area where we took the break was very quiet, calm; we were enjoying the silence of the nature while sipping the hot tea.. and look who was our companion out there!! Hotel Radhesh Garden is a pure veg restaurant though not on the highway, but its just 100 meter away from the main road. The place is very nice & clean & very easy to locate as well. We liked the food, as the taste was not like a typical road side food joint, rather it was like a proper restaurant. Service was also very quick which is important on a road trip. You can park your car infront of the restaurant, though we parked our white knight under a nearby tree to keep the cabin cool. We ordered Roti-Sabji which was good & priced reasonable. Small washroom can serve the purpose. Few pictures will let you understand the standard of the restaurant. After fuelling up & top up the air, we resumed our journey. Post lunch we thought road condition will improve, but no!! Same story continues, lots of bumpers, small potholes etc. Even though it was rough road but again I must say that apart from the comfortable suspension set-up & the ride quality of Grand i10, it’s very effective AC & great control of NVH level made my shotgun (wife) feeling drowsy! After a while the road became narrower. We crossed few ghat sections & small towns. Please pay more attention on the road in this stretch; many unmarked speed-breakers are there. Though “Village ahead” signboard was there in most of the cases as and when we were approaching the same. Thanks to the authority!!It was nearly 4.30 in the evening we reached Satara.Now it was nearly 11 hours on the road & we were really exhausted, so took a long break of around 15-20 mins. Before we proceed to the last leg of our journey, we freshen up & took the right turn under the elevated Pune-Bangalore highway, and proceed towards Wai. After a while we had to take left to continue towards Mahabaleswar-Panchgani. Though Google Maps was showing correct way, still we asked some local fellows to know the condition of the road. Now we are closer to our destiny. Now our stay is just around 20 km away from here which is 45 minutes ghat section drive. But suddenly all our tiredness is gone & the amazing view welcomed us to the Mahabaleswar-Panchgani. And some clicks:- Finally!! we reached our destination after 13 hours drive at Shiv Sagar Farmhouse!! We decided to stay in farm house/home-stay rather than a luxury resort to enjoy the homely atmosphere, nature and also to save some money for the next trip. It is just a km away from the main road & has got proper parking space. They welcomed us with some fresh strawberry plucked right in front of us from their own farmland. The ground floor room was decent & big enough, geyser was in working condition. But the best part was the service, friendliness & cleanliness. Staff over there was very polite and helpful. Soft spoken manager Mr. Sagar was very attentive to take care of the customers. Regarding food, the menu is limited but all the foods are fresh & home cooked. Now let some pictures do talking. DAY 2: We started our day by watching sunrise from the terrace of the hotel. Just imagine the homely atmosphere of our stay that we managed to go to terrace before they actually woke up, rather they dint mind to open the door of the terrace. We had poha as our breakfast in the small lawn of the hotel which felt like into the lap of the nature. Few images taken from the terrace: Now it was time to explore Mahabaleswar!! First we went to Elephant’s head point & other viewpoints through a jungle road, as suggested by Google Maps. You can cover multiple viewpoints at a go, as these all are just adjacent to each other. But remember to download offline maps (for route purpose) as network coverage is very limited in this area. Now it was time to have some Mahabaleswar famous strawberry milkshake. I am not at all a fan of strawberry, but oh buoy!! If you taste this, you will get to know how best strawberry tastes when it’s fresh!! What a beautiful taste it was..mind-blowing. Then we visited “Panchganga Mandir”. We were told that 5 rivers originated from this place including Krishna. But practically it was 5 streams from the rocks appear and gets collected in a small tank inside the temple. These 5 streams symbolises 5 different rivers, Krishna, Venna, Savitri, Gayatri and Koyna river. Photography was prohibited, so could not take one. We started our post lunch session to visit Arther’s point, Savitri view point, monkey point etc. After a quick visit to nearby shopping corner, late afternoon we spent quality time at Venna Lake on boat & having delicious chaat nearby. By the time of sunset we were at Wilson point to experience a spectacular sunset. We chose Wilson point as most of the crowd used to be at Bombay Point. The place was less crowdy, so we enjoyed every bit of silence while sun was going down Been there in Mahabaleswar “mapro garden” is must visit place. We had some hot soup while returning back to the hotel. Though we dint like the potato soup & found costly, but one can buy many mapro products, like jam, ketchup etc. It was really chill evening at Mahabaleswar.One local strawberry wine parlour was there just around 500 meters from our stay. They make wine from the fresh strawberry of their own farm land. So we decided to give a try in the chilling evening. Costs only Rs 100/- per glass, but the experience is priceless. We were having strawberry wine (KINGBERRY) with some cheese & freshly cut strawberry right in the garden beside the strawberry farmland under the star gazing sky. We call it a day after having really fresh food in dinner at our stay. DAY 3: Today we decided to visit around Panchgani after exploring Mahabaleswar yesterday. First we went to Parsi point around 7 o’clock. Parking place is there just opposite to the viewpoint. You will find some decent eateries there. We enjoyed the moment like anything because firstly nobody was there when we checked in, and secondly soft sunlight of sunny morning was looking beautiful on the valley!! Tips: Better to visit early in the morning, as we saw the huge crowd & no parking place while returning around 12.30 PM. After having a beautiful view of the valley we proceed towards Sydney point. This is bit uphill place from the main road; this place offers you a great view of the Dhoom Lake & surrounding valley. Luckily not much crowd was there at this place either. After spending quality time there, we were enjoying the drive/ride in and around Panchgani; suddenly we found a place called Harrisons Folly. We found the place amazing; you can get nearly 280 degree view of the down valley. Few clicks are: We came back to the hotel to have lunch & freshen up, we had opted cauliflower & potato sabji which were from their farmland itself..!! Isn’t it too good? After having a lovely lunch we went to table land to watch this magnificent sunset : Last Day: Route taken & Schedule was: We started around 6.30 AM from the hotel when it was dark, (as the sun rises a bit late in the western side of India, we started half an hour late to avoid night driving in ghat section) ;but soon we got a spectacular view of first daylight.. We halted for a while to enjoy the serenity. Birds were chirping,fog engulfed the small valley down there and sun was slowly coming up through that..it was the moment of the day!! We had awesome dhokla & samosa in breakfast near Koregaon. Place name is Chamunda Rajpurohit Sweets Then soon we landed up in the same route as described before, so almost same story continued. Single lane road connects to Mohol with almost no traffic.We packed our lunch from hotel Radhesh to have it afterwards during any break, as we were not hungry by the time we reached Hotel Radhesh. Nearly around 6:30 in the evening, when the sun was about to set for the day, we already reached near Shadashivpet to take our last pit stop (nearly 45 kms from our sweet home) and finally we reached at our place around 7:30 PM(again 13 hours) Few tit bits: 1) Total distance from our home to the hotel (One way) : 555 Km 2) Time taken(one way): Nearly 13 hours 3) Road condition: Due to 4 lane work in progress, lanes were not consistent till Solhapur (NH 65). You will find lots of “men at work” & “take diversion” signboard. After Solhapur, road is 4 lane till Mohal. Then If you continue through Pandharpur-Satara road to avoid traffic, the driving will be little painful as the condition of the road is not that good, but almost no opposite traffic made that up. Watch out for some unmarked bumper in this stretch. After Satara again the road is good. Ghat road starts 15-20 KM before Mahabaleswar which may take 45 Min to 1 hour depending upon the traffic. 4) Amenities in the route: You may find out fuel stations but very rare toiletries unlike Hyderabad-Bangalore highway. No major restaurant or dhaba we have seen. 5) Please avoid night driving in this route as overall road condition is not that good, and few places are there in the route where nothing is there, nothing; not a single home. At night these areas better to avoid. 6) Hotel Radhesh Garden is a decent & hygiene place, which is just around 100 meter from the highway with parking facility. 7) Shiv Sagar farm house is a great place to stay into the lap of nature, the owner is very friendly & co-operating. Location is a km away from the main road, which ensures peaceful stay. Room is decent & spacious. Wi-fi facility is there only near the reception room. You can get the tour conductor’s contacts from the reception guy. It has a small kid playing area as well. Overall it’s a nice place to stay & spend quality time. 8) Do visit Harrisons Folly, its an amazing place. 9) You need to pay 20/- per person upon entering Panchgani hill sation as municipal tax receipt, which is valid for 7 days. And also you need to shell out 50/- per vehicle as Pollution tax collected by the Municipal council (Even if you have PUC). 10) Total Toll paid is Rs 95/-(one way) as most of the national highway road was under construction. This trip gave us true experience of a road trip that how to overcome the practical problems & maintain the tenacity throughout a road trip. Frankly this trip gave us the confidence to take any kind of road trip afterwards. We thoroughly enjoyed our journey & the trip... We got wings to fly... We were alive...!!Thanks & Cheers!! Adding few random pictures of our drive. Traveled: Jan 13thto 17th January 2016. All the information is as on this period; all rights are reserved for the content & images of the post.
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